As usual the Easyjet flight was late taking off and also arriving so added to its statistic on late or delayed flights that Michael O’Leary delights in gloating over when he provides benchmark statistics in the Ryanair in-flight magazine each month. Easyjet are frustratingly relaxed about flight times and I think on the whole I prefer the Ryanair approach.
There wasn’t a great deal to see for the first part of the flight because of cloud but we saw the snow capped peaks of the Alps poking through the mist and shortly after crossing Venice the vapours cleared and we had a clear view of the coast of Croatia and the string of islands separated from the main land by a vivid cornflower blue Adriatic Sea.
As the plane flew south we picked out familiar places, Trogir, Primosten, Split and islands that we recognised, Hvar and Korcula, but this time from an unfamiliar perspective because for the last two years these were places that we had only seen from ground level as we had driven south from Zadar. This time we could appreciate the islands with their halos of white stone beaches, the blue sea and the salt and pepper grey mountains that rise dramatically behind the narrow coastal strip. As the plane descended we flew low over the old town of Dubrovnik and picked out the iconic red roofs, the city walls and the boats resting in the harbour.
Within seconds the plane was touching down and after a short wait we were in welcome sunshine as we walked to the terminal building to be processed at the passport control desk. It was a nice modern airport, clean and airy and after we passed through we found the car hire desk where we were upgraded from a small to a medium car for no additional cost. We were planning to drive to Montenegro and the Government Foreign Office website warns that driving can be difficult there with poor roads and temperamental drivers so on this occasion I agreed to pay the additional €6 a day for the fully comprehensive insurance.
After we had completed the paperwork and signed up we maneuvered out of the impossibly tight parking space in the parking lot and drove the short distance to the resort of Cavtat. I paid careful attention to the road and Kim worked out the air conditioning controls and air flow combinations because it was very, very hot indeed. It only took a few minutes to arrive in the small town and find a car park and then, after a quick change of clothes into something more appropriate for 28º of sunshine rather than a chilly morning in Stansted we walked around the harbour and slipped immediately into holiday mode.
Cavtat was delightful and because Croatia insists on a compressed holiday season of two months in July and August and, except for being directly below the flight path of landing planes, it was quiet and peaceful. In the harbour there were a pot-pourri of working boats, pleasure cruisers and some very expensive sailing boats and yachts so we picked a restaurant with a good view and enjoyed a simple lunch and a first Croatian beer called Ožujsko. It was good.
After lunch we walked around the little town through narrow leafy lanes and cobbled streets flanked with traditional red-roofed brown stone houses climbing back from the blue of the waterfront up narrow stairways smothered in clouds of white, mauve and pink blossom and every now and then a private shaded courtyard to investigate. Along the front there were busy cafés and tourist shops and the waiters and the shopkeepers allowed us to browse slowly without pestering for custom as they do in other parts of Europe.
It was early afternoon and getting hotter so it was time to leave and continue our journey towards the nearby village of Mlini where we would be staying for a couple of nights. I got us tangled up in the one way system and took the long route out of town that twisted along the coast where cypress trees stood erect like sentinels and then climbed through green hills with with drifts of stiff yellow broom and nodding scarlet poppies back to the main road and headed north.